Practical capability: The impact of handgun ownership among suicide attempt survivors

Claire Houtsma, Michael D. Anestis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Suicide is a leading cause of death and represents a serious public health concern. However, our ability to predict its occurrence has not improved over the last 50 years and we continue to rely on past suicidal behavior as the most robust predictor of future suicidal behavior. Recent theories have emphasized the role of contextual factors that increase capability to act on suicidal thoughts, including access to and familiarity with lethal means. We sought to examine the impact of handgun ownership, a component of practical capability as defined by the Three-Step Theory, on the relationship between past week suicidal ideation and perceived likelihood of making a future suicide attempt within a community sample of previous suicide attempters. Results indicate that, among suicide attempt survivors who are currently suicidal, handgun ownership increases the likelihood of predicting engagement in future suicidal behavior. As self-reported predictions about suicidal behavior have been found to be uniquely predictive of actual suicidal behavior, handgun ownership may facilitate the transition from ideation to action. The relevance of these findings to means safety strategies is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-92
Number of pages5
JournalPsychiatry Research
StatePublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


  • Firearm
  • Ideation-to-action
  • Suicide
  • Three-Step Theory


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